VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.
Sunday afternoon, many of you watched the Green Bay Packers knock Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys out of the NFL Playoffs. As it seems to go more often than not lately, the game went the way of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. For the third time in the past eight seasons, the Packers are on their way to the NFC Championship game, one win away from another Super Bowl appearance.
It’s tough to look across the Hudson, at the landscape of the NFL in Green Bay and not feel like they have everything and we have nothing. They have Rodgers, we’ll start our third new quarterback in as many years. They have the reigning rookie of the year (Eddie Lacy), we have a question mark at running back. They have Lambeau, we are currently displaced. They are playing in the NFC Championship game next weekend, we are watching from our couch.
For the past 10 or so years, outside of a flash in the pan in 2009, this has been the way things have gone. The future is starting to look a little brighter in Minneapolis, but the gap is still wide.
But how wide is it? It’s time to quantify the gap and answer the question, just how far behind the Green Bay Packers are the Minnesota Vikings?
To do this, we’ve created a fictitious 100-point grading scale with five categories. Each category brings with it a value scale of 0-20 points, with 20 points being the highest. Grading each of these teams across the Offense, Defense, Special Teams, Coaching and Fan Base, we’ll come up with a number to show us just how far the Vikings are from where the Green Bay Packers currently reside.
Buckle up, Vikings fans, the results are not expected to be pretty.
OFFENSIVE SCALE (20): Green Bay 19, Minnesota 8
The Green Bay Packers hold the trump card when it comes to the offensive category, his name is Aaron Rodgers. A-Rodg is currently the best quarterback in the league and I’m not sure there are any questions any more. He has the skills, he has the attitude and he has the confidence it takes to be a star in this league, and he does it on a regular basis, calf injury or not. Sprinkle in a decent offensive line, a top-5 wide receiver in Jordy Nelson and a dominant running back in Eddie Lacy and the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the best in the league. The only knock that kept them from a perfect 20, is the offensive line that lacks consistency from time-to-time.
For the Vikings, we’ll split the middle and give them a 10, based mainly on potential. Teddy looks like he’s going to be the guy, but there’s really no telling what that ceiling is. Does he have the potential to be a guy like Aaron Rodgers or will he be an adequate starting quarterback, something like Jay Cutler and Matt Ryan? We just don’t know. With a gigantic question mark in the backfield given Adrian Peterson’s current situation, holes at the wide receiver spot and an offensive line that functions like a leaky sink, there are some big concerns for the Vikings on offense after the 2014 season.
DEFENSIVE SCALE (20): Green Bay 13, Minnesota 14
This may be the only category where the Vikings walk away on top, but I’m not sure that a one-point loss will mean much to the Packers. The two teams finished 14th (Minnesota) and 15th (Green Bay) during the regular season this year but the Minnesota defense is younger and seems to be trending in the right direction. Julius Pepper is playing on borrowed time and despite still being a dominant defender, even Clay Matthews is starting to show signs of normalcy. For the Vikings, Zimmer’s scheme mixed with Rhodes’ progression, Smith’s steady play and the upside that is Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr, the Vikings played poorly down the stretch and still finished ahead of the Pack. Give some of these young players another year or two and it will be very interesting to see where these two defenses stand.
SPECIAL TEAMS (20): Green Bay 12, Minnesota 12
By most accounts, this year was one of the worst special teams years for the Vikings in recent memory. Bad punts followed up by missed field goals preceding poor kick returns, that seemed to be the recipe for the Vikings season this year. Locke, Walsh and Patterson all had down seasons and their stats were all still better than the Packers lot.
Masthay, Crosby and Cobb had a down season across the border too. That said, the problems seem less pressing when your offense is able to score no matter the starting position. Giving both teams a 12 in this category is kind of a cop-out, but trying to weigh potential on something like special teams is a bit of a crap shoot. Just ask the Minnesota Vikings how their assessment of Cordarrelle Patterson played out this year?
COACHING STAFF (20): Green Bay 18, Minnesota 12
The most promising thing about comparing the two coaching staffs for these teams is the fact that last season, the gap within this category would have been twice as wide. Mike Zimmer has given the Vikings hope for the leadership of this team in the future. Norv Turner adds to that equation and we’ll sprinkle in the GM here too, Rick Spielman seemingly makes more good decisions than bad ones (yes we remember Christian Ponder). The attitude, the direction and the coaching seem to be the right mix for a successful team here in Minnesota.
Over in Green Bay, they’re working off of the same recipe card, but they are about six steps ahead of us here in Minnesota. Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson have this football thing figured out. The way they have not only identified the talent, but then go and utilize those skills is second to none right now. Again this is trending in a positive direction, but it has to be the Packers by a good margin right now.
FAN BASE/GAMEDAY ATMOSPHERE (20): Green Bay 20, Minnesota 8
I’m sure that this will upset certain factions of Vikings fans, but anybody that has ever visited Lambeau Field on Green Bay Packers gameday cannot argue that the atmosphere around that stadium, the level of passion inside the gates and the overall knowledge of the game among the fan base is top-notch. That’s what comes with a history of winning. I’m not saying that Minnesota doesn’t have those fans, but 4 Super Bowl losses and 0 victories followed by decades of disappointment have left those fans in hibernation mode. The new stadium in Minnesota will bring out the fan base again, if the team can pair that with a quality product on the field the fan base will mobilize again and this number will even out a bit. That said, mainly because they’re crazy, I’m not sure that Vikings fans will ever fully catch up to that of the Packers fan base. Trust me, I hate saying this, and they are annoying as can be, but they might be the best fan base in the league.
GREEN BAY 82 - MINNESOTA 54
It’s obviously not a scientific scale, but doing our best to compare the two franchises as a whole, the Vikings are currently 28 grade points behind the Green Bay Packers. Understanding that the Vikings are trending in the right direction in almost all categories, I honestly thought it was going to be worse. Let’s take another look at this in two years when the Zimmer/Spielman crew have had a few more draft classes and Teddy has a few more games under his belt. I’m not saying they will have usurped the Packers on top of the division by then, but this conversation will likely be a lot more interesting then.
I hear a lot of Vikings fans hoping that the Vikings select Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon III with the 11th pick in this year’s NFL Draft. I like Gordon as much as anyone. I think he’ll be a very good NFL running back. I also don’t think the Vikings should take him – nor do I think they will.
Gordon is one of two players I’ve been asked most about since the season ended with regards to whether the Vikings will take them at 11 in the draft. The other is talented Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. As I stated in my first mock draft of the offseason, I don’t see any way Cooper slides out of the top 10 and falls in the Vikings’ lap at 11. If Rick Spielman wants the best wide receiver in this year’s draft, he’ll need to trade up and get him.
As for Gordon, I didn’t have him going in my top 20. Not yet anyway.
Before all my neighbors from across the border start yelling and name-calling, let me clarify. Gordon is the best running back in this year’s draft -- due in large part to the ACL injury suffered by Georgia running back Todd Gurley in November. Truth be told, Gurley was the best running back I saw this season but the knee injury sabotaged his first-round draft value. Even so, Gordon has the explosiveness to be a feature NFL running back, if there is such a thing anymore.
In fact, as things stand now, Gordon projects as potentially the only running back to go on Day 1 of the draft. He might go in the top 20. He might even go top-15. I might have him included somewhere in the top 15 of my future mock drafts if it becomes apparent that a team is strongly considering taking him. Overall, he might very well be one of the 10 best players in this year’s draft.
However, he’s a running back, and running backs as a position are no longer valued by NFL teams the way they once were. Even five years ago, Gordon might have been a top-five pick in the draft. In case you hadn’t noticed, though, today’s NFL is all about the passing game.
Both this season and last season only 13 players topped 1,000 rushing yards. In 2012 that number was 16. In 2011, 15 players topped 1,000. In 2010 it was 17. In 2009 it was 15, 2008 had 16, 2007 had 17 and in 2006 there were 23 players with more than 1,000 rushing yards. The “one star running back” system is eroding. Most teams now favor a running back committee – like the Patriots have done for years. Five of the eight teams that played in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last weekend employed a backfield by committee approach (Panthers, Ravens, Colts, Bengals, Lions) for a good chunk of the season. The Ravens finally settled on one back (Justin Forsett) while injuries eventually forced the Cardinals into a committee backfield.
Last year, not a single running back went in the first round of the NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans made Bishop Sankey the first running back selected in the second round with the 54th overall pick. Jeremy Hill went to Cincinnati one pick later and Carlos Hyde was taken by the 49ers two picks after that in a mini run on running backs. I like Gordon better than all those guys, which is why I think he goes in the first round – just not to the Vikings.
The Vikings squeezed 1,108 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns from the duo of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon this season. They got 1,549 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns from the duo of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart the season before. That’s a difference of 27 rushing yards and 0.25 touchdowns per game. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Vikings part ways with Peterson this offseason and choose to retain Asiata (he’s a restricted free agent). Let’s also say McKinnon gets even a little better in his second season and the Vikings do something to improve their offensive line, even a little. If all these very feasible things occur, my guess is the Vikings could squeeze something around 1,500 yards and 10-12 touchdowns out of their running backs next season. And that might be selling them short – there are NFL observers who feel McKinnon could develop into a pretty solid NFL running back. Heck, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry in part-time duty as a rookie so why not?
Is it really nice to have an elite player like Peterson in the backfield? Of course. Would it be really cool to have Gordon in Vikings purple? Absolutely. However, it’s just more of a luxury than a necessity at this point.
The Vikings – and pretty much every other team in the top 20 of the draft – have more pressing needs than a stud running back. In case you missed it, the Vikes have holes to fill at offensive line, linebacker and wide receiver -- and could also use help at cornerback and safety. They can’t plug all those holes in free agency.
When the Vikings’ front office self-scouts their most pressing needs, I’m guessing running back is not near the top of the list.
This is the point where someone usually reminds me (read: scolds me) that teams should always take the best player available rather than draft for need. That’s great in theory. If your team is without a glaring need – or perhaps has needs that can be adequately addressed in latter rounds, by all means take the best player available. However, 10 teams passed on J.J. Watt four years ago when they shouldn’t have, so you can’t tell me the “best player available” strategy is always in play. And if Jameis Winston slides to 11 in the draft this year, I’m guessing the Vikings won’t take him, even if he’s the top-rated player left on their war room draft board. They have a quarterback last I checked.
In short, the Vikings have bigger fish to fry. Get a guard, get a tackle, get a wide receiver or get a linebacker... then maybe later in the draft if there’s a value pick at running back, grab him. This is a pretty good running back draft class. If Peterson is gone, the Vikings might select one later on to complement McKinnon. There will still be good ones available in the third and fourth rounds.
Gordon looks like he’ll be a very good NFL player so I’m not knocking his talents at all. I’d really, really like to get him in my dynasty fantasy football league this summer. He’ll help whatever NFL team he goes to.
I just doubt it’s going to be the Vikings.
Go to VikingsJournal.com for more on the NFL Draft and all the speculation on the Vikings landing Larry Fitzgerald.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
The Vikings finished out one of the most depressing weekends in recent franchise history with an embarrassing showing against a New England Patriots team that looked as good this week as the Vikings did last week.
It’s difficult to properly characterize the game, but there were failure in all three phases of the game. While it might be intuitive to argue that the defense was not as bad as their field positioning made them, it’s important not to overcorrect and recognize how, after the first quarter, New England was extremely efficient at moving the ball.
On offense, Minnesota had a promising first drive that was washed away almost entirely by the subsequent drives, plagued by turnovers and bad decisionmaking.
Like most offenses, it starts and stops with the quarterback. While not having Adrian Peterson may be a blow, Cassel’s inclination to hold on to the ball for too long, lock on to receivers or make bad decisions isn’t because of Peterson. While it may be the case that Peterson affects coverage—an effect that is likely overstated—31 other teams don’t have Peterson and their quarterbacks do not tend to throw four interceptions.
It may be pedantic to point out that not every interception was his fault—indeed, he shared blame with Asiata and Jennings for two of his interceptions—it would be missing the point to emphasize the nuances. Cassel had little feel for the pocket, missed open receivers and was effectively blistered by New England’s different defensive looks.
As for the running backs, the Vikings couldn’t get much done on the ground. The Vikings’ longest run was 13 yards, picked up not on a designed run, but a Cassel scramble. The second-longest was a seven-yard direct snap to Matt Asiata, more the function of a trick play than genuine running ability.
This isn’t as much because of the offensive line or blocking as it is the talent of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. Because McKinnon didn’t get much play, most of the offensive running woes can be lain at the feet of Asiata, who averaged only 2.8 yards a carry. His vision and decisionmaking at the line was good, but there were more than a few times that his limited burst really hurt him, especially on runs to the outside.
On the other hand, Asiata is excellent in the passing game, both as a pass-catcher and as a pass blocker. While Asiata doesn’t have an extraordinary skills resume when it comes to route running and so on, he has very good hands and can move around in zones to find open spaces.
As for the offensive line itself, there was not much interior pressure given up by Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan or Brandon Fusco, though all three could have done more to create better alleys in the running game, largely putting together an average run blocking night. Penalties on Sullivan and Fusco could make Johnson the better look lineman of the three, although they ran behind Johnson less than they did the other two.
On the outside, Matt Kalil was abysmal. Giving up several sacks and pressure, Kalil had perhaps the worst game of his career. Typically not a sustained worry if a tackle happens to have a bad game, this continues the trend of subpar play since his rookie year, which is increasingly long ago. He perhaps put in the worst performance of the day.
On the other side of the line, Phil Loadholt had some good stretches of play, punctuated with occasional lapses, both as a pass protector and run blocker. Though this is how you would characterize most average offensive linemen, it’s significant to point out that his highs were higher than most offensive tackles.
The receivers were not a lot of help. Greg Jennings is a very, very good receiver, but he’s not good enough to consistently beat Darrelle Revis, who’s cobbling together his resume to resurge as the league’s best cornerback. With Revis on Jennings almost all night, there wasn’t much Jennings could do to get open. The interception Revis grabbed was in part due to Jennings pulling up mid-route, too.
Cordarrelle Patterson had his share of wins and losses in the passing game, losing out against Logan Ryan twice after a good gain for a first down against the very same. He had a spectacular run after catch, as he’s due to have at least one a game, but his impact was largely marginal and that in part has to do with the fact that he still has a lot of trouble with receiver fundamentals.
Jarius Wright, aside from a baffling run near the beginning of the game, was alright, but still had a lot of mistakes. He was certainly open far more than he was targeted, but his targets did not produce particularly rich outcomes.
Kyle Rudolph started out with a fantastic game, but three drops (though I imagine that total will be different for different people, given how involved defenders were on some of them) and though I have consistently argued that Rudolph’s hands are more inconsistent than he’s given credit for (his drop rate is league average; he makes up for his spectacular catches with routine drops at times), this was extremely uncharacteristic for him, and he even seemed rattled.
Both Rudolph and Ellison had good games as blockers as far as I could tell. Marqueis Gray received a few snaps, but not enough to really evaluate.
The defense will be penalized in the box score more than is fair, but that doesn’t mean they did well. ESPN 1500's Andrew Krammer did do a good job, however, of contextualizing the importance that field positions and turnovers played by pointing out the Vikings only gave up six points on drives started by punts or the kickoff, and gave up 24 points on drives from turnovers.
Still, field position is interdependent, and the defense giving up bad field position to the offense will lead to a bad field position on the following drive for the defense. In this case, the defense, outside of the first quarter, was particularly scary. Tom Brady ended with a passer rating of 102.3, and an adjusted net yards per attempt of 7.0. Compared to his former backup, Matt Cassel, the difference is stark (39.1, 0.1). For context, the league average last year was 5.9.
Despite abysmal play by the interior offensive line last week from the Patriots, the Vikings couldn’t find ways to create pressure with their front four. Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph were both quiet in the game, and it wasn’t until Tom Johnson arrived that interior pressure manifested itself, not just with a sack but with pressure. Linval Joseph couldn’t get off his blocks as quickly as he did last week and Floyd was quiet.
On the edge, both Robison and Griffen let high-profile edge runs get by them, though Robison in general was the better of the two—he produced more pressure and needed to be manipulated more by his opposing tackle than Griffen, who had not just a bad game against the run, but a silent game against the pass, with very few pressures if any at all.
Chad Greenway had a good game. Aside from a high-profile pass deflection, he racked up smart play and generally solid tackles (though again it would behoove analysts not to simply count up his tackles as a few were downfield). With a quarterback hit and a tackle for loss, Greenway’s all-around game was better than his peers around him.
Jasper Brinkley didn’t take too many snaps after the first drives, but still played very well against the run without having to worry too much about being targeted in the passing game. Anthony Barr on the other hand, had a much worse game, especially early on. The Patriots were finding ways to target him by either scheming receivers into his zone or willing to gamble that Gronkowski was the better player than him with the ball in the air. The Patriots were often right.
When Gerald Hodges entered, he couldn’t do as much as his specialty would demand in terms of making sure that players like Gronkowski were obviated from the game.
In the secondary, things were a bit more iffy. On the positive side of things, Josh Robinson and Harrison Smith clearly had very good games, with Robinson virtually absent of targets while Harrison Smith only looked questionable when in man coverage against Edelman in the slot. Harrison did a very good job against the run, with two highlight stops and eight overall tackles. He was difficult to run against.
Robert Blanton was better than worse, and performed a myriad of roles well, bracketing Gronkowski at times, while at other times carrying individual receivers. He was a pass-rusher, deep safety and in-the-box defender, depending on the play, and performed well enough if not spectacularly.
On the other hand, corners Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn were liabilities. Munnerlyn gave up a few receptions, spotlighted by a touchdown, and had some issues working off the edge to make a presence in the run game. Rhodes had more problems in pass coverage, and though at least one of his three penalties was perhaps poorly called, there’s no question that the aggregate of the play was dismal.
Aside from being massively out of position or playing with surprisingly poor recovery speed, he missed tackles and allowed some fairly large gains on the ground for receivers.
All in all, the good defensive players could not make up for the anemic performance from the rest of the corps, and despite the fact that the Patriots scored almost entirely off of turnovers, it would be wrong to call that acceptable play from the defense.
While it normally is a rather perfunctory note, special teams played a big role in the Vikings loss, with a few of Jeff Locke's punts, a 57-yard boomer aside, causing issues in the field position battle.
With that, Ellison (my bad, it was Matt Kalil, which is appropriate)—despite his good blocking in plays from scrimmage—was the one who gave up Jones' unreal block, scoop and score on the field goal try. In one punt return attempt, the Vikings only had nine men on the field.
It was a disaster.
Yesterday morning we all woke up with Adrian Peterson as one of our “favorite” football players. Sure he has his personal issues off the field, just as we all do, but on the field, he was the man. Then the news breaks yesterday afternoon and terms like “reckless negligence” and “child abuse” begin to be thrown around pretty loosely. By the end of the night, when the actual story starts to form, we’re left with a perplexing situation, a couple of them in fact.
What’s your stance on corporal punishment? What should the government’s stance on corporal punishment be? How does the NFL react to something like this? How do fans react to something like this?
There are many specific questions that all lead towards one that envelopes them all. Where do we go from here?
What a difference a day can make. Since the news of alleged child abuse broke yesterday afternoon, Adrian has gone from scheming a way to beat the Patriots on the field to long phone calls with his lawyer attempting to avoid potential jail time. The least of his worries may be coming from a league that, amidst one of their worst weeks in history, is ready to throw down the hammer on offenders if only just to prove a point.
On the heels of the Ray Rice situation the NFL has enacted and put into place a more strict, cut and dry policy against domestic abuse. The policy states that a player could be subject to six games without pay after a first offense and that mitigating circumstances could push the penalty longer.
In its infancy, the focus of this policy has been directed towards violence against women. The video release of Ray Rice’s elevator tirade made it all the more real and incredibly necessary this week. But to a person with some semblance of common sense, child abuse would likely fall under the umbrella of domestic abuse as well which means that, pending the outcome of the investigation, Adrian could be facing a six game penalty from the league.
For this week, the Vikings did the right thing and on their own volition deactivated Peterson from their game against the Patriots.
At least the NFL doesn’t have a whole lot on their plate right now.
We all know that’s actually not the case and Peterson’s situation likely rounded out what will forever go down as one of the worst week’s in the history of the league.
With Goodell’s feet firmly placed against the fire already, he will be forced to act on this Peterson case and the fallout will likely pin Adrian as his sacrificial lamb.
But the new NFL policy was not developed for this sort of a situation. It was put in place to protect women from an epidemic of domestic abuse that was and is running through a league of overly empowered, testosterone driven men. But if the policy protects adult women from the men in their lives, it would only make sense that it also protects young children, four-year-old boys, from those same men.
There is still a lot that we have to learn about this case as it goes through court system. Peterson, who turned himself in to Houston police last night, has an uphill battle to fight against not only the prosecutors but a society enraged by violence and empowerment from professional athletes.
Corporal punishment has long been a hot button topic of conversation in this country. Generations of past were raised with spankings, belts and paddles as a regular part of their childhood. It was simply part of life. But it might be time for our country, as a nation, to instill some level of federal distinction on what is and what isn’t considered child abuse.
No matter your view on spanking, when yesterday’s news broke about Adrian beating his 4-year old son with a tree branch, how did it make you feel?
If you’re anything like me, your eyebrows were raised. If you’re from the south, where punishment via switch is a little more common, it may have seemed like nothing to you…at least until the pictures came out. When those photos depicting the wounds left on the poor 4-year old boy came out, I hope that the opinion changed for everybody. There’s no way you will convince me that it wasn’t too far and we all should have jumped up and been outraged. Red backsides were present in my Minnesota childhood, but bruises and lacerations are when you’ve crossed the line.
As a boy who witnessed my own parents mentally struggle with their own corporal punishment dilemma, and saw first hand the shift from spankings, away from “hitting” their kids and towards other forms of punishment, isn’t it time that America puts some sort of standard together?
I’m not calling for the outlawing of spankings, but when part of the country thinks it’s okay to hit your child with a stick and the other is outraged by it, truly how united are we?
As I mentioned above, there’s a lot more to this story that will play out and answer some of these questions for us. By all accounts, Adrian is cooperating with authorities in Houston as we speak. He’s not running from the situation and he’s not denying that the wounds in question were left there by him. But as this continues to play out, as Adrian re-assesses his actions, as the NFL attempts to handle the situation and as the court system determines the difference between corporal punishment and child abuse, I hope that we as a society are paying attention. I hope that conversations are being had about all of these situations. We are a nation that has long since learned from the mistakes of our past and unfortunately for them, the mistakes of celebrities play out in the public far too often. I hope that we can learn from this, change the way we operate, if only a little, and stand up tall on the other side better people, better families and a better nation.
It’s been equated before that the New England Patriots are to football what the New York Yankees have been to baseball. The dominant team of their era, led by their captain who is so cool, so calm, that winning almost seems to a part of his biological makeup. They’re the evil empire that looms over top the league for years at a time, forming a dynasty and having their way with almost every foe that stands in their way.
While the Yankees did so primarily through a loophole in the salary cap/luxury tax relationship, the Patriots did it on the backs of a duo, so daunted, so unparalleled that the artists might already be in the early stages of molding each of their bronze busts in Canton, Ohio.
Even if it is only because of their grandiose success, many refer to the Patriots as the NFL’s “Evil Empire.” Breaking it one step deeper, giving them this Star Wars themed nickname makes a bit more sense, and it also gives me an excuse to completely nerd out on too of my favorite things, the NFL and Star Wars. It then immediately becomes clear to me that if New England is the Evil Empire, then Bill Belichik is the scheming and powerful Darth Sidious while Tom Brady is his pimped out, über talented Sith Lord (insert Darth Vader here).
On the matter of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, you have a man who is sitting on the cusp of history as he enters TCF Bank Stadium this weekend. With 199 regular season wins in his pocket, Belichick is looking to become the sixth NFL coach to hit the milestone (Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau and Marty Schottenheimer).
In 14 seasons as the head coach of the Patriots Belichick has accounted for thirteen winning seasons (2001-2013). One of only three coaches with 100 more wins than losses over his career, he has three Super Bowl rings and an undefeated season under his belt as well.
Recently, Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning had this to say about Belichick. “Coach Belichick is the best coach that I’ve ever competed against. I think it’s safe to say he’ll go down as the greatest NFL coach of all-time. His teams are always well-coached, always well-disciplined, and you know it’s going to be a 60-minute fight. To me, that speaks to his coaching.”
As Peyton said, Belichick coached teams are always disciplined and tough. One other thing that they are, at least during his time in New England, is Bill Belichick teams have always been led by their Darth Maul, their Darth Vader…Tom Brady.
Outside of three attempted pass during a 2000 fill-in job, their careers have almost completely overlapped in New England. With Belichick taking over as coach in 2001 and Brady taking over as starting quarterback the same year, two of the best the game has ever seen teamed up to form a dynasty that will always be remembered as one of the league’s most dominant.
Brady has lead the Patriots to 148 victories in 192 regular season starts since 2001, compiling a .771 winning percentage and giving him the best record of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Leading his teams to all three of the New England Super Bowls under Belichick, Brady sits on the verge of crossing the 50,000 yards passing mark (602 away) and becoming just the sixth quarterback in NFL history to join that club.
Lethal, yet stunning, Brady finds ways to silence his opponents in a way that only he can. With four 30 touchdown seasons, six 4,000 yard passing seasons and 19 career 4-TD games, Brady is a dangerous combination of attitude and athleticism and he brings it onto the football field on a weekly basis.
Together, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, er Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have put together one of the most potent offensive attacks in the history of the league. Calculated and precise, they pick apart defenses on the legs of Bill’s defensive genius (the force) and the precision of Tom Brady’s arm (a sick, red colored light saber).
In fact, the duo of Belichick/Brady are the winningest tandem of head coach/starting quarterback since the 1970 merger. Their 148 wins tops Dan Marino and Don Shula (116) for the most victories while their .771 winning percentage tops Ken Stabler and John Madden (.756) as well. With 192 starts and counting under Belichick’s tutelage, Brady looks to extend his all-time marks against the Vikings this weekend.
While it would be easy to sit back and roll over for the Evil Empire this weekend at The Bank, the Vikings need check the blueprints and fly along the Death Star’s trench this week to exploit any and all weaknesses in the super weapon’s armor that they can find.
With Matt Cassel (Obi Wan Kenobi) under center, Adrian Peterson (Luke Skywalker), Greg Jennings (Han Solo) and Cordarrelle Patterson (Yoda, because of all the cool flips and stuff) led by head coach Mike Zimmer (Admiral Ackbar), the galaxy has never before been more convinced that the Vikings may very well be equipped to battle the Empire this weekend in a Galaxy far, far away (aka, TCF Bank Stadium).
On one hand, Vikings fans need to take a deep breath and realize their squad just manhandled a Rams team that doesn’t appear to be very good and was using their second and third-string quarterbacks. On the other hand, the Week 1 victory was different for many reasons and should be cause for a dash or two of optimism.
Those who watched Sunday’s 34-6 dismantling of the Rams knew they were watching a different product on the field – from the aggressiveness and improved tackling on defense to the imagination on offense.
This is a different-looking Vikings team that’s already starting to produce some different results.
I mean seriously, when was the last time the Vikings even won a road game? Um, that would be Dec. 23, 2012 when they inexplicably pounded a 12-2 Texans team 23-6. That’s also the last time the Vikings held any opponent to six points or less. The last time before that was their 34-3 shellacking of the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs following the 2009 season. And the last time the Vikings held an opponent to six points or less in a regular season game prior to 2012 was their 24-3 win over the Falcons to open the 2007 season.
Here’s a few more “last times” from Week 1.
The last time the Vikings won by as many as 28 points on the road was Sept. 28, 1994 at Chicago.
The last time the Vikings won by 28 points on the road in Week 1 was their 40-9 victory over the Saints to open the 1976 season. That’s 38 years ago. No current Vikings player was even alive 38 years ago. Not even Cullen Loeffler (he’s the Vikings’ elder statesman at 33).
The last time the Vikings won by 28 points under a first-year head coach was 22 years ago under Denny Green when they beat the Bengals in Cincinnati on Sept. 27, 1992. Rich Gannon threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns in that game. Terry Allen rushed for two touchdowns and caught another. Cris Carter had 11 receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns. And the Vikings picked off Boomer Esiason four times. Yeah, that was a while ago.
I love this one despite the meaningless nature of preseason games: the last time the Vikings won all four of their preseason games and then won in Week 1 was – wait for it – the 1998 season. Yes, that season. You know, the one in which they went 15-1 and then made it to the NFC Championship Game and… I’ll stop there. No, I’m not comparing the 2014 Vikings to the 1998 Vikings.
The last time the Vikings had a wide receiver gain 100 yards rushing in a game, as Cordarrelle Patterson did on Sunday, was… never. Not even Percy Harvin managed that trick in a Vikings uniform.
The last time the Vikings returned an interception for a touchdown, as Harrison Smith did on Sunday, was Dec. 16, 2012 by Everson Griffen against the Rams. The last time a Vikings player returned an interception for a touchdown against someone other than the Rams was… Harrison Smith, who did it twice in 2012, against the Bears and the Cardinals at home. The last time someone other than Smith returned an interception for a touchdown against someone other than the Rams was in 2010 when Jared Allen did it in the last game of the season against the Lions.
The last time the Vikings won on the road without getting either 100 rushing yards or a touchdown from Adrian Peterson was, once again, that 23-6 game against Houston in December 2012. Since Peterson came into the league in 2007, the Vikings have now won just four road games in which he has been held under 100 yards and out of the end zone.
So yeah, Sunday’s game against the Rams was definitely different.
Give yourself permission to feel good about that first victory, Vikings fans. Optimism, yes. Unbridled merriment, not yet. We’ll hold off on saving up money for playoff tickets or planning a Super Bowl parade route for now. However, we might revisit that notion if the Vikings find a way to take out the Patriots on Sunday.
On that note, one more “last time” stat: the last time the New England Patriots (0-1) started a season 0-2 was 2001. That’s a long time ago. They also won the Super Bowl that year, beating (kind of ironically) the Rams 20—17.
Head on over to VikingsJournal.com for a detailed breakdown on how Sugaring the A-Gap is head coach Mike Zimmer’s Pressure Du Jour and a fun look at Cordarrelle Patterson’s epic 67-yard touchdown run against the Rams.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
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